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Op/Ed

Op-Ed: “Saratoga Live” Gets It Right

I never understood why so many people putting together racing broadcasts didn’t understand their viewers or their viewers’ wants. We’ve gotten a lot of babble, features on the friendship between the goat and the favorite in that day’s stakes races and some nauseating banality and silliness. Even NBC, on its Derby show, forces figure skaters Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski down our throats, which often produces some cringe-worthy moment. I’ll give NBC as pass because the audience for the Derby does in fact include a lot of non-racing fans who...

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Keep Customers Engaged the Old-Fashioned Way

The Jockey Club’s 64th annual Round Table Conference took place on Sunday at the Gideon Putnam Hotel in Saratoga Springs. As I usually find with this conference, the speakers were interesting and informative, and I learned something. One speaker stood out to me, however, because he shared something that I found particularly compelling. Kip Levin, CEO of Betfair US and TVG, told the assembled audience that when a customer deposits $100 into a TVG account through NJBets, he or she generates $310 in handle. Meanwhile, when a customer deposits $100...

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Let’s Talk About Drugs In Racing

The issue of drugs in sport has never been bigger than it is now. There have been so many performance-enhancing drug scandals in recent years that it has bred a culture of scepticism of sporting success amongst the public. Brilliant performances are immediately questioned as being too good to be true, with the trainers/coaches that oversee the success of athletes often coming under as much suspicion as the athletes themselves. Horse racing has not escaped such scrutiny, with both legal and illegal drugs being a constant subject of controversy and...

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Op/Ed: Eric Hamelback
Op/Ed: Eric Hamelback

Everyone wants what is best for horse racing and especially for the Thoroughbred racehorses that make our industry possible. That is why many of us are stunned by The Jockey Club leadership's latest attempt to use that organization's considerable wealth and influence to push a piece of federal legislation, not supported by the vast majority in racing, to address a problem that many would agree is nonexistent. Allowing for our equine medication control, testing and sanctions to be placed in the hands of a private entity possessing no experience with...

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Great Product. Lousy Product. Same Price?

The price of a new Honda Civic is about $23,000. The price of making a bet at the racetrack is the takeout, the percentage extracted from the pool before winning bettors are paid. No matter the race, the size of the field, the class of the horses running, the takeout is about 17% for a win bet or 34 cents for every $2 wager you make. Using that same logic, the price of a new BMW should also be about $23,000. Absurd? Of Course. Racing doesn’t seem to understand that...

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Ben’s Cat’s Groupies

I have had the pleasure of knowing King Leatherbury since 1976. I have been his client, his competitor and, on occasion, his co-conspirator. All of these facets were a boatload of fun. I could not have imagined that 20 years after I left the business, King would come up with a homebred gelding that would rekindle not only our rapport, but that of several other "lost" friends. Ben's Cat, a winner of his first eight races, competed in the 2011 running of Laurel's Native Dancer S. Ben didn't win that...

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High Volume Players

If you bet on horses virtually anywhere in the world today, you won’t just be competing against your fellow run-of-the-mill horseplayer or the bookmaker at the local betting shop, but against teams of sophisticated, high-tech gamblers who will be pouring millions through the windows. And guess what? They’re a lot better than you. So much so that horse racing needs to examine whether or not these "high-volume players" are making betting on the sport a disastrous proposition for the rest of us. Computer technology and the invention of rebates have...

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A Tale of Two OTBs

In the broader economy, various types of construction projects are viewed as indicators that might be signaling the overall direction or strength of the business climate. Within the past two weeks in the Thoroughbred racing industry, two relatively small initiatives made local headlines, but both have the potential to be industry-wide signposts that point to where the nation’s racetracks might be investing for the future. The two projects are important as much for what they are as for how they were received in their respective communities: Both are brick-and-mortar off-track-betting...

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TDN Op/Ed: Craig Bernick

Since Hollywood Park closed at the end of 2013, all of California racing has suffered. Attendance and handle have declined despite two historic crops of 3-year-olds and a good amount of world-class racing. In 2014, Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome, champion Shared Belief, and Breeders Cup Classic winner Bayern made enormous impacts on the national racing scene. This year, we had the long awaited Triple Crown winner and California based American Pharoah, plus Kentucky Derby 2nd and 3rd place finishers Firing Line and Dortmund. Throughout this time we have...

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Analysis of Godolphin Restructuring

Judging by what has been done and what has been said, Sheikh Mohammed's decision to consolidate his racing and breeding operations under the Godolphin banner conveys a restlessness with the status quo. It remains to be seen how it will differ from a rebranding exercise. In the press release which announced the restructuring on Godolphin's own website this week, there appeared at least one interesting quote by their newly minted supremo John Ferguson. "Our long-term objective is to improve on Godolphin's results on the racetrack," he said. Much of the...

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